Dear / Esteemed PEN members,
The month of June brought with it the elections in Turkey. After an election campaign where all the reserves of the state were issued to the service of the ruling party; the constitution was overruled and all the opposition parties were deemed as enemies, the people made their choice on the 7th of June. They acted in favor of pluralism instead of a single mans authority. They chose peace and dialogue over separatism, war and fighting; a parliamentary regime over the dictatorial regime of Turkish Presidency that feeds on violence and tension.
We hope that this election held in our country which has been turned into an empire of Fear will put an end to lawlessness, the rupture of education, separationism, prohibition and suppression against the freedom of thought and speech, theft, robbery, destruction and violence.
PEN’s agenda was yet again very busy during the last month.
PEN Turkey, English PEN and PEN International are seriously concerned for Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, who has been accused of espionage by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan. PEN is calling for the complaint brought against him by Erdoǧan’s lawyer to be dropped.
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According to reports, President Erdoğan yesterday submitted a criminal complaint via his lawyer demanding Dündar’s trial and imprisonment in relation to an article and video that were published on the Cumhuriyet website on Friday 29 May.
The video, now removed from the website following a court order, showed Turkish gendarmerie officials in the southern province of Adana discovering large quantities of ammunition on civilian trucks reportedly belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency in January 2014. The trucks were allegedly bound for the Syrian border.
Following the publication of the video, Erdoğan has been openly critical of Dündar, accusing him and the Cumhuriyet newspaper of engaging in espionage on live television.
Dündar has also been subjected to fierce attacks by the pro-government media in Turkey, who have accused him of treason, espionage and complicity in an international conspiracy against Erdoğan and Turkey.
Erdoğan’s lawyer has reportedly demanded two life sentences for Dündar in this latest criminal complaint and has accused him of: ‘forming an illegal organisation, crimes against the state, obtaining confidential information pertaining to national security, political and military espionage, unlawfully making confidential information public and attempting to influence a trial’. This is at least the fourth case that Erdoğan has attempted to bring against Dündar in the last 13 months, including an ongoing defamation case, the next hearing of which is scheduled for 17 September 2015.
Zeynep Oral, President of PEN Turkey, said: ‘We, the writers of PEN Turkey, still want to believe that this is a democratic country; that we have respect for freedom of expression. The duty of a newspaper, of a journalist, is to inform the readers and to let the public know the truth about what is happening. Can Dündar , a member of PEN Turkey, fulfilled his responsibility as the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily by publishing an article and photographs. The 168 writers and employees took full responsibility for this report along with their Editor in Chief. And we, the Executive Commitee of PEN Turkey, stand together with our colleague Can Dündar’.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said: ‘PEN believes that the criminal complaint levelled at Dündar is wholly illegitimate and that it is an attempt to punish him for journalistic work that falls within the public interest. The ongoing war in Syria is a topic of great importance to the Turkish public and they have every right to know whether their government has been delivering arms across the border. PEN condemns the criminal complaint against Dündar and calls on the Turkish judiciary to reject categorically these attempts to bring him to trial.’
The Literary Archive Museum, which was opened by Turkish Writers’ Union in 2002 under a protocol with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in order to protect and promote the unique values of our literature, is attempted to be vacated.
The protocol for our archive would be renewed every five years. The protocol was to be renewed for a second time when we submitted our “request of renewal” on April 21, 2011.
After this procedure, our Union continued the usual operation of the Archive Museum. However, with a statement dated the 30th of January, 2012, we were demanded to cancel the protocol and vacate the Archive Museum. Our Union’s action for nullity was dismissed by the Administrative Court. The case is appealed.
Over the past decade, our Union has enriched the Archive with the first editions of the books, drafts of the poems and proses in original handwriting, photographs and writing utensils of many authors including Nâzım Hikmet, Şükran Kurdakul, Enver Gökçe, Aziz Nesin, Arif Damar, Melih Cevdet Anday, Cemal Süreya and Asım Bezirci.
We have negotiated the issue of protecting or assigning a new place for the Archive Museum with Ertuğrul Günay, the former Minister of Culture, and Ömer Çelik, the current Minister of Culture, but no answer could be received from the ministers.
Theatre is condensed life. In Turkey,theatre is under oppression just like life is. As PEN Turkey, we simply cannot accept this situation. The "new normal" is not a democratic normal. We are determined to insist on the goal of a secular and democratic Republic of Turkey.
27 March World Theatre Day is an invitation to liberation.
PEN Turkey Centre
We strongly protest the inhuman attacks.
PEN Turkey Centre
"As the Turkey Centre of the international writers association PEN, we strongly condemn and meet with consternation the [news] that our esteemed composer and pianist Fazıl Say has been called up to court. The international community has been put on alert in the face of fascist developments in Turkey."
In the official statement we submitted as the board, we outlined that the above words were an expression of thought and a criticism, that they were not intended as being aimed as an insult. We emphasised that the right to criticise, a constitutional and legal right, was being exercised. As a result, it was requested that a decision not to prosecute would be given.
November 15, 2012 Istanbul
Freedom of expression is never automatic. It is always about concrete actions. These actions are what make it function.
For several years, PEN witnessed the declining number of writers either in prison in Turkey or caught up in endless and personally destructive legal mazes. You cannot blame us for having been encouraged. We were not alone. This improving situation came with increased democratization, better civilian control over the military, and economic development.
Then, abruptly, a year ago, the arrests began again, the pre-trial detentions, the dragged-out trials, the cases suspended in order to leave writers in limbo.
Worse still, we have seen the Anti-Terror Law increasingly used with a lack of rigour. This in turn has led to writers and publishers - who in our carefully researched and considered opinions have nothing to do with terrorism - becoming the unwitting victims of myriad legal traps.
In other words, the law is being used to limit freedom of expression.
Dear PEN Int'l Delegation to Turkey on 12-19 November 2012 - i.e. Dear Friends John Ralston Saul, Hori Takeaki, Eric Lax, Haroon Siddiqui, Eugene Schoulgin, Adrianne Clarkson, Marian Botsford Fraser,Larry Siems, Hyam Yared, Heger Anders, Michael Guggenheimer, Michael A. Henry, Sara Whyatt, Jo Glanville, Elnaz Baghlanian, Negar Josephi, Alev Yaman, Erda Halisdemir and Izzy Finkel,
On behalf of PEN Turkey and all the writers, journalists, translators and publishers who are in trouble for struggling in favour of freedom of expression in Turkey, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of your solidarity and contributions.
We are also aware that the Delegation represented the whole PEN Int'l Board and the thousands of other colleagues all around the world who are with us in heart.
We remember and miss our dear member Mehmed Uzun, who was (and is) not only an important master of Kurdish Literature but also of World Literature.
On behalf of PEN Turkey, hoping that the Kurdish Language and Literature will develop freely and be known better in the world, I extend my greetings to his dear wife Zozan Uzun and to all of you. I am grateful to our sister centre Swedish PEN -dear President Ola Larsmo and all the other members- for this activity. Swedish PEN has always been sensitive in terms of human rights.
President of PEN Turkey